Thursday, April 17, 2014

Two of America's most challenging high schools

Congratulations to Oconee County High School and North Oconee High School for being named to the list of America’s Most Challenging High Schools by The Washington Post.  This prestigious recognition places both schools in the top four percent of educational institutions in the United States and continues the growing reputation of Oconee County Schools as one of the premier systems in Georgia. 

The Challenge Index created by Mr. Jay Mathews, a writer for The Washington Post and formerly of Newsweek, takes the total number of Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate, and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school each year and divides that number by the number of seniors who graduated in May. Schools that achieve an index of 1.00 or higher are placed in the rankings. The 2014 list represents only nine percent of the over 22,000 public high schools available for consideration. 

The list also posts an “Equity and Excellence” rating, which is the percentage of all graduating seniors who had at least one score of 3 or above on one or more AP tests during high school.  NOHS and OCHS collectively scored 50 percent on the E&E scale—meaning that one out of every two students that graduate from Oconee County Schools does so with one college credit. 

How is this accomplished? 

Upon entering elementary school, teachers access our students’ skills and create specific goals for their unique development and growth through an assessment called the MAP.  In 5th grade, elementary schools introduce advanced content in reading and math (and are reviewing opportunities to do so at the 4th grade level as well). 

Our middle school students have the ability to take high school courses for credit beginning in the 8th grade.  This year for the first time all 8th graders took high school physical science and with a passing grade will earn one high school credit prior to ever stepping foot on the NOHS or OCHS campuses.  In addition, students can also enroll in coordinate algebra this year for high school credit.  Next school term, 8th graders will be offered even greater opportunities for advancement with the addition of yearlong courses in chorus or band for high school credit.  Conceivably, a middle school student could enter our high schools in 2015 with as many as four high school credits.  This reality is an exciting step in the future of moving our students forward at a pace that meets their needs and challenges them on a new level.

At our high schools, OCS continues to offer a growing variety of college-level courses.  Currently, 17 AP courses are offered at each high school with additional courses expanding that offering to nearly 20 next year.  OCS has also partnered for the first time with the University of North Georgia to offer college courses taught by the faculty of UNG within our high school day and on our high school campuses.

It is indeed an exciting time to be a student in Oconee County Schools—even The Washington Post agrees!  Let me know what you think at

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